Monday, 31 January 2011

Sunday Service - MINI Plant Car Park

I took the 191,000 mile Passat out for a 180 mile spin yesterday to the MINI plant in Cowley just outside Oxford where the PistonHeads had organised a Sunday Service, a free gathering of 800 folks who like to worship their cars.

When I read through the list of vehicles that were booked to attend including a Ferrari California at the top of the list, my sceptical, if it's too good to be true on the internet it is, side imagined some of those hoping to attend might be having a laugh.

However as evidenced by this very expensive tax disc, many people did in fact turn up in the vehicles promised, of the 50 plus vehicles from 28 manufacturers I photographed there were two current different model Rolling Royces, five Ferraris, helping to secure Ferrari Fridays for a while yet (!), 5 Bristols in 4 flavours a couple of Chevrolets and a 1938 Ford Deluxe Hotrod.

On an absolutely freezing morning the MINI visitor provided a welcome shelter with a completely eclectic collection of Mini's both originals and Retro models photo's of which I look forward to sharing in the fullness of time.

The meeting started at 9 am prompt and we were asked to clear the area by 1 pm. Ironically the afternoon drive home was in brilliant sunshine which would have been very welcome while I was taking these pix, but I guess we can't have everything, certainly not in January.

With over 400 photographs to sort out I thought I'd share a handful of details to give you a flavour of what is to come here at Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres !'

I'd like to thank everyone at Pistonheads and the MINI visitor centre who made my first Sunday Service so much fun and finally I'd like to thank all the PistonHeads who brought such a fascinating collection of vehicles.

Hope you enjoyed some of the details in today's edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres' and that you'll join me again tomorrow for a trip inside the MINI Visitor centre. Don't forget to come back now !

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Federal Spec - MG Midget 1500

Today's blog is a little thank you to peteran51 whom I know as Piet who a couple of weeks posted a link to one of his favourite cars the #238 Frank Hernandez Austin Streamliner on the Spridget Register website in Germany.

The British Motor Corporation MG Midget started out life as a badge engineered Austin Healey Sprite MK II in 1961 reviving the successful Midget name which MG had used in the 1930's.

By 1972 the Midget had completely replaced the Sprite in the now British Leyland Motor Corporation model line.

This 1979 version is powered by a 1493cc / 91 CUI motor taken from the Triumph Spitfire with a modified 4 speed all synchromesh gearbox from the Morris Marina.

Production ceased on 7th December 1979 making this particular vehicle registered in 1979/80 in Reading one of the last of the 73,899 Midget 1500's that had been produced since 1974.

Midgets today are still raced regularly with dedicated Midget series in the UK which has been running since 1977. Parts are still available thanks to British Motor Heritage which owns original press tools sufficient to supply complete Midget body shells.

My thanks again to Piet for the heads up, I hope you have enjoyed today's US Federal bumper spec edition of Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres and that you will join me again tomorrow for something that I will photograph at a Piston Heads Sunday Service later this morning. Don't forget to come back now !

PS It's sad to report that Psycho on Tyres contributor Ed Arnaudin, who took all of the late 50's sports car photographs it has been my humble privilege to share this past couple of months is not very well, I hope you will join me wishing him a full and speedy recovery.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Sweet and predictable - #43 Maserati 150 S #1643

Thanks to again to Ed Arnaudin for today's photograph of a Maserati 150 S owned by EF Spicer seen here at Thompson CT 20th July 1958.

7 43 27s

By the time the smallest ever Maserati, the 150S, was built in 1955 the Maserati brothers were long gone from the company bearing their name working on their new OSCA vehicles.

The popularity of the 1500 cc / 91.5 CUI sports car class racing led Maserati to fill the gap in the lower end of their range with this vehicle.

Following Ferrari who in turn was inspired by the fuel efficient advantages of an HWM four cylinder Alta engine, Vittorio Bellanti also ditched the prevalent smooth 6 cylinder engine architecture in favour of a new 4 cylinder alloy block, dry sump lubricated engine featuring hemispherical combustion chambers, double overhead cams and twin plug ignition which produced 140 hp at 7,500 rpm.

Valerio Colotti designed the chassis with independent front and de Dion rear suspension originally covered in a 300S derived body by Celestino Fiandri in 1955.

For 1956 the slightly less derivative body seen here was designed by Medardo Fantuzzi. Stirling Moss drove one of the factory entered 150 S's in a sports car race to second place on the Nurburgring in 1956 beaten by margin of 'just' 3 seconds over 100 miles by Hans Hermann in a Porsche 550 A.

Stirling is alleged to have said of the 150 S that it was " sweet-handling and predictable but overbodied and gutless.”

EF (Edward Farnham) Spicer drove the #43 in the photo to 9th place in the final all comers race on July 20th, 8 spots behind the winning Porsche 550 of Newton Davis.

My thanks and best wishes to Ed Arnaudin and his son Steve for todays photograph, Jerry Entin for vehicle identification and Terry O'Neil for the results.

Hope you have enjoyed today's sweet & predictable edition of 'Gettin' a lil psycho on tyres' and that you'll join me again tomorrow, don't forget to come back now !

Friday, 28 January 2011

Intelnet Carceaology Detective Agency - Ferrari 375 Pininfarina America

Today's Ferrari Friday blog is a real team effort and I'd like to start by thanking four people without whom you would be staring at a funky photo of a Meridian Bridge in Spain. First thanks must go to the amazing Mr Ed Arnaudin who took today's photograph nearly 54 years ago in 1957, second thanks must go to Ed's son Steve who took the time and patience to sort through his Dad's slides scan them and then send them to me 3,500 miles away.

Third there are two people at Ferrari Chat who deserve a special mention, first Kare in Helsinki Finland for having the patience to answer each of my dumb *ss questions before convincing myself that what he said in the first place id correct and finally special thanks must go to Boudewijn Berkhoff who took it upon himself to bring a faded 54 year old slide back to life.

Ed's photo is not the easiest to analyse because if you search Google Images you'll find several vehicles similar but frustratingly with completely different names in particular the 250 Pininfarina Europa and the 375 Pininfarina America.

This only makes sense when one learns that in 1953 Ferrari launched two cars one at the European market the 250 Europa with a 3 litre 183 CUI Colombo designed short block V12 and the other aimed at the US market with a later 4.5 litre 274 CUI Aurelio Lambredi designed long block V12, both cars looked more or less identical with body work by Pininfarina, however they were not assembled on a production line so each differed from the other with varying degrees of obviousness.

In all 21 Europa's were built mostly with Pininfarina bodies while 45 300 hp 150 mph 375's were built from 1953 to 1955, just 8 of those 45 had Pininfarina bodies and one of those was a one off coupe with a wrap around windsceen which makes the car in Ed's photo just one of seven. But which one ?

Once the car model was identified it was relatively easy to find out the whereabouts of those seven Pininfarina bodied cars today; three are red, one is two tone silver, another is silver but with a much larger chrome grill, one is green, another blue and the last is black.

Thanks to the aforementioned Kare I found out that the black 375 was originally grey with red interior delivered bearing the chassis number #0319AL to a Mr Carpenter. Thanks to Tom Roland we have 21st September 1957 as the probable date this photo was taken.

I'd also like to thank Aardy, tx246, Motob, of2worlds, and Ed Niles for chipping in with opinions that hopefully has seen an approximation of the truth emerge.

Hope you have enjoyed today's detective mystery trip in an extremely rare motor car and that you'll join me in thanking everyone who helped make today's blog possible.

Join me again tomorrow for a look at another Italian vehicle photographed by Ed, don't forget to come back now !

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Last In Line - Porsche 968 Club Sport

The 968 was the last of the in line 4 cylinder models that evolved from the originally Audi derived 924/944 series with styling queues taken from the Porsche 928 to give it some water cooled Porsche family resemblance.

From 1993 - 1995 the Club Sport was available, stripped of the luxuries from the rest of the 968 range, with stereo, A/C and sunroof being the only options to add to a vehicle optimised for track use with manual windows and no rear seats.

The 236 hp 16 valve 3 litre 183 cui in line 4 cylinder engine with Vario Cam Timing and six speed gearbox was voted Performance Car of the Year by Performance Car magazine in 1993. The Club Sport variant was only marketed in Australia, Europe, Japan and the UK and because of the low numbers produced is considered a collectible among some Porsche aficionados.

Thanks for joining me on today's Vario Cam Timing edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres', I hope you'll join me again tomorrow for Ferrari Friday. Don't forget to come back now !

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Variable Turbine Geometry - Porsche 997 Turbo S

This is one of the last series 1 2008 model year Porsche 997's distinguished by the LED indicators across the outer intakes and bug eye headlights lights from the older 996 with which it shares a four wheel drive power train.

With over 100,000 units sold the 997 is without doubt the most popular model Porsche have ever made even the TDM who is not a noted Porsche fan thinks a 997 will "make love to your fingertips and stir your soul." Lets hope he washes his hands regularly.

The 997 Turbo was tested by TDM on an empty German Autobahn with an indicated 200 mph on the clock 2 mph faster than the top speed claimed by Porsche, Motor Trend tested the same model as capable of accelerating 0 - 60 mph (97 kph) in 3.2 seconds a full 0.5 secs ahead of the manufacturers claims.

The turbo S comes with a 525 hp 3,824 cc 233.4 cui flat six cylinder engine which introduced variable turbine geometry on the twin turbo's.

Sadly this vehicle is already a late model a series 2 997 Turbo S was launched in 2010.

Hope you have enjoyed today's variable turbine geometry edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres' and that you'll join me again tomorrow for a look at a performance water cooled edition as we round out Porsche week. Don't forget to feed the fish before you leave and please don't forget to come back now !

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Moby DIck - Porsche 935/78 #006


The Porsche 935/78 was a one off vehicle built to win the 1978 Le Mans 24 hours and was the ultimate works development of the, then 15 year old, 911 which would not be topped until the advent of the 911 GT1 built in the late 1990's. Notice that in preparation for Le Mans the drivers seat was placed on the right hand side optimising weight distribution for a race run on a clockwise track.

Thanks to a rule made at the request of arch enemy BMW the body was lowered 10cm 3.9 inches over the standard 911 by cutting out the standard floor plan with the engine like wise now lowered the gearbox was inverted to raise the drive shafts closer to their original height. Apart of from the front windscreen almost every body panel was optimised to maximise the top speed on the 4 mile Mulsanne straight where 235 mph was eventually achieved.

The 935/78 was equipped with a 750 hp 3.2 litre 195 cui flat 6 with 4 valves per cylinder in water cooled cylinder heads, a first for Porsche who had always raced air/oil cooled motors up until this time.

The car seen here driven Jacky Ickx and Jochen Mass at the 1978 Silverstone 6 hour race, a warm up for the Le Mans 24 hours, romped away from the opposition, mostly private Porsche's with a single works BMW driven by Ronnie Peterson and Hans Joachim Stuck, finished a ridiculous 7 laps ahead of the rest of the field.

Stommelen/Schurti qualified 'Moby Dick', as the 935/78 was known, third on the grid at Le Mans however a silly stunt in which the car was driven on the road from Porsches garage outside the circuit to the circuit on race day went horribly wrong when predictably the car got caught in race day traffic causing the engine to over heat which created an oil leak. The subsequent loss of performance meant the car could only finish 8th.

935/78 #006 appeared twice more in 1978 but disgraced itself with two retirements and has since been consigned to the Porsche Museum. Joest Racing built two further 935/78's from factory drawings in 1981.

Hope you have enjoyed today's 235 mph edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres' and that you will join me again for another turbo charged blog tomorrow. Don't forget to come back now !

Monday, 24 January 2011

Awaiting TLC - Porsche 912

From 1965 to 1969 around 30,000 entry level Porsche 912's were sold, featuring the body of the then all new Porsche 911 with the 90 horsepower motor from the old Porsche 356.

In 1967 well known Polish Porsche privateer Sobiesław Zasada won the European Rally Championship in his 912 fitted with a factory supplied rally kit.

The 912 was replaced by the 914 allegedly built in a not so harmonious collaboration with Volkswagen from 1970 - 1976.

In 1976 914's were temporarily replaced in the the Porsche line up by 2099 additional 912 E's, with 911 G series bodies and 2 litre engines from the ill feted 914/4, built exclusively for the US market until the arrival of the water cooled Porsche 924.

Porsche 912's are easily recognisable when looking at the engine, they only have 4 cylinders instead of the 6 of the 911.

This particular model was on it's way to the Porschmode Specialist body shop for some long overdue TLC when I happened on it at the end of last year.

Hope you have enjoyed today's in need of TLC edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres' and that you'll join me again tomorrow for a look at one of the most outrageous Porsches ever built by the factory. Don't forget to come back now !

Sunday, 23 January 2011

West Coast Spyder - Porsche 550

My thanks go out again to Ed Arnaudin & Son for today's photograph, Ed purchased this photo by Carlyle Blackwell of Jack McAfee in his John Edgar owned 550 most likely being driven to victory at Pebble Beach, a track I know very little about, on 22nd April 1956.

Porsche 550, Pebble Beach

Photo Carlyle Blackwell, Publised Courtesy Blackwell Archive, for sales enquiry's please e-mail and your contact details will be forwarded to the Blackwell Archive.

Jack McAfee was an extremely successful West Coast driver who started out in hot rod racing by tuning a neighbour friends mother's model T, unbeknown to the fellow's poor mother.

Jack is best known for driving cars owned by John Edgar highlighted by a couple of international appearances including the Nurburgring 1000 kms. Driving the 550 seen here Jack became National class F champion in 1956.

At 29 Jack became the youngest ever Porsche Dealer and was responsible for the often copied McAfee aftermarket wheels for Porsche and VW cars long before Porsche cars were fitted with the iconic Fuchs alloy wheels.

Just 90 Porsche 550 purpose built racing cars, inspired by the 356 specials built and raced by Walter Gloecker, were produced from 1953 - 1956.

Allegedly one of these low slung cars was driven under a pair of railway crossing gates by Hans Hermann during the 1954 Mille Miglia. A light weight 550 A variant was driven to Porsche's first major out right sports car victory by drivers Umberto Maglioli and Huschke von Hanstein in 1956 Targa Florio.

However all of the 550's racing successes are dwarfed by it's position in 20th century movie culture, outside a restraunt on the 23rd of September 1955 Alec Guiness, the original Obi-Wan Kenobi, was shown the #130 Porsche 550 known as 'Little B*st*rd' owned by an emerging acting talent and part time race driver.

Sir Alec thought the vehicle looked sinister and advised the owner 'If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.' Sadly, a prediction that came true on 30th September 1955 when the legend of James Byron Dean was born.

My thanks to Arnaudin & Son for the wonderful photograph and to for the race information.

Hope you have enjoyed today's edition of getting a little psycho on tyres and that you'll join me again tomorrow for a look at a Porsche in need of a little TLC. Don't forget to come back now !

28 07 12 PS My thanks to Pamela Blackwell who has kindly retrospectively given me permission to post the photo's her father took.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

East Coast Spyders - Porsche 550 Spyder

Thanks to Ed Arnaudin for 3 more superb photographs from Thompson CT on July 20th 1958.

From race 7 we have three Porsche 550 Spyders.

Newton Davis, 550 Chassis 550-04 Finished 1st. Newton is known to have raced both Porsche and later Lotus cars from at least 1957 to at least 1965. He appears to have raced this one from 1958 - 1960.

Bernhard Vihl's career is much less well known he appears to have entered races in 1955 and 1962 but not much is documented about him in between except we know that he finished 10th on this day in July behind the #123 Lister Bristol, #52 Jaguar C-type and #76 Aston Martin DB 3S mentioned in previous posts.

Warren James is known to have raced a Porsche 356 from '54 to '56 and then showed up with this 550 in 1958, this photograph extends Warrens known career by at least one race.

The fact that Newton Davis beat much more powerful V8 Maserati, Jaguar - Cadilllac Special a C-Type and an Aston Martin show's he must have been an exceptional talent for handling the far nimbler 550 round the tight Thompson CT circuit, I'll cover some of the technical details tomorrow with a photograph of a 550 on the West Coast.

Thanks to Arnaudin & Son for the photographs and to Terry O'Neil for the results information.

Don't forget to come back now !

Friday, 21 January 2011

It's The Real Thing - Ferrari 512BB

In 1974 Niki Lauda tested a prototype Ferrari 312 PB in preparation for the 1974 World Sports Car Championship and when Enzo asked him what he thought Niki is alleged to have said something to the effect that if Mr Ferrari wanted to win the Grand Prix World Championship he ought to forget about the prototype 312PB. Enzo seems to have concurred with his new drivers opinion and his cars were never to contest the World Sports Car Championship during his lifetime again.

However many privateers never tired of entering Ferrari's in the World Sports Car Championships lesser IMSA classes and today we will be looking at the fortunes of 3 privateer Ferrari 512 BBs that I was lucky enough to see in the early 80's.

The Ferrari 512 BB was an update of the 365 GT4 BB we looked at last week. Introduced in 1976 the 512 featured an enlarged 360 hp 4942 cc / 301 cui 180 degree 12 cylinder engine with a 9.2:1 compression ratio and dry sump engine lubrication which is ideal for the higher cornering forces experienced in racing cars. 929 examples of the 512 BB were made before the 512i BB was introduced in 1981.

512 BB / LM #27577 1980 Silverstone 6 Hours, O'Rourke/Craft/Norman Q18 F 7th o/a 2nd IMSA, those with an interest in all things musical might recognise EMKA and Steve O'Rourke in connection with Pink Floyd whom Steve is credited as managing post Syd Barrat, Nick Mason was listed to drive the #11 but didn't, after Steve died in 1994 Nick acquired this car to join his 250 GTO.

On the inside you can just make out the winning #8 De Cadenet - Ford driven by Alain De Cadenet (seen here) and Desiré Wilson who I believe a couple of weeks earlier became the first female to win a World Championship race of any kind in the same De Cadenet - Ford with the same co-driver at Monza.

512 BB / LM #35523 1981 Silverstone 6 Hours, Phillips/Salmaon/Earle Q25 DNF (Flat battery) A not untypical horribly wet and cold day at Silverstone the race was won by a Porsche 935 which will be the subject of a future blog.

512 BB / LM #31589 Andruet/Ballot-Léna 1981 Le Mans 24 hours, Q 37th, F 5th o/a 1st in IMSA GTX, my first holiday abroad alone was always going to be to go see the Le Mans 24 hours and I was not disappointed. Bell & Ickx won and there was an entertaining battle between 5 of these 512 BB's for much of the race, though all but one other did not finish.

512 BB / LM #35523 1982 Silverstone 6 Hours, Phillips/Earle/Jones Q34, F 17th, regrettably this was the last time I saw the 512's on the track, these fabulous sounding machines continued to be raced until 1985.

Hope you have enjoyed today's 'It's The Real Thing' edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres' and that you will join me again tomorrow for a look at some Porsches from Thompson CT in the first day of my first Porsche week. Don't forget to come back now !

Thursday, 20 January 2011

" Il Mostro " ahead of it's time ? - Alfa Romeo SZ & RZ

The Alfa Romeo SZ designed, in just 19 months, by Robert Opron, responsible for the equally alien Citroen SM, and Antonio Castellana with a little input from Zagato amongst others was dubbed The Monster when it was launched in 1990, one either loves or hates its 'back street speed shop' styling.

The Sprint Zagato was powered by a 210 hp 2,959 cc / 180 cui alloy V6, good for a 150 mph and matched to a superb chassis thanks to the work of Giorgio Pianta who fine tuned the Alfa Romeo 75 chassis inherited from the Group A / IMSA racing programme.

Unfortunately the SZ was launched in the middle of a world recession making it very difficult to sell the 998 Rosso Alfa coloured vehicles. It is believed that there were an additional 38 prototypes and pre production models, many of which are thought to have been scrapped.

Sales of the SZ were boosted by a 'one model' SZ Trophy racing series for which participants were offered a 25% discount on the purchase price of an SZ.

Despite the difficulty selling the SZ when production ceased in 1991 the roadster RZ version of the composite plastic bodied SZ was put into production and went on sale in 1992.

Like the SZ the RZ has a hydraulic lifting mechanism activated by a button which allows the ride height to be raised by 50 mm / 2 inches in order to negotiate bumps in the road surface.

The RZ proved even more difficult to sell than the SZ so production was abandoned after just 278 of the planned 350 were completed, in light of the success of the BMW Z series sports cars perhaps the SZ and RZ were just half a decade ahead of their time.

With thanks to E van der Beek and A.Ritzinger for additional information.

Hope you have enjoyed today's back street racer edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres' and that you'll join me again tomorrow on Ferrari Friday for a look at 3 flat 12 racers. Don't forget to come back now !

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Purring Panther - Alfa Romeo Giulia Super

The Alfa Romeo Giulia also known as the 105 series was in production from 1962 - 1978, I first heard the distinctive sound of the twin cam Super model in Cyprus in the mid 1960's.

This 1971 vehicle is powered by a 97 hp twin carburettor 1,570cc / 95 cui engine that gave the car sports car performance in a saloon car shell. In 1965 the Giulia Super received much of the technology from the 1963 Giulia Ti Super racing programme.

This crest featuring a serpent eating or regurgitating a human known as a Biscione has been an emblem of the Visconti family for a thousand years and used in the crest belonging to the ruling Sforza family of Milan for over 600 years. It's exact origins are unknown but thought to be either from the legends of Theoderic the Great or alternatively from the biblical story of the Leviathan and Jonah.

Film buffs will remember that a number of Italian Police Giulia's, known as Panthers, were out run in the original version of 'The Italian Job'.

Hope you have enjoyed today's Biscione edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres' and that you will join me tomorrow for a look at two Alfa Romeo's with bodywork that exudes all the hallmarks and subtlety of a back street speed shop. Don't forget to come back now !